Raf Simons, ‘I Don’t Want To Do Collections Where I’m Not Thinking’

Last spring, months before Raf Simons announced he’d be stepping down as Creative Director at Dior, the designer agreed to a series of intimate interview with prized fashion critic Cathy Horyn, Business of Fashion reveals.

Caught inside Dior’s unstoppable money-making machine, the pair’s conversations shed light on Simons’ creative suffocation during his time at the European house—his genuine artistry falling second to systematic processes in order to meet strict deadlines. For a dreamy romantic like Simons, such a regimented fast-paced environment became a heavyweight burden, as shown in the following interview excerpts via BOF, below.

On the Dior fall ready-to-wear show:

“You know, we did this collection in three weeks […] Tokyo was also done in three weeks. Actually everything is done in three weeks, maximum five. And when I think back to the first couture show for Dior, in July 2012, I was concerned because we only had eight weeks.”

On the Dior process:

“When you do six shows a year, there’s not enough time for the whole process […] Technically, yes—the people who make the samples, do the stitching, they can do it. But you have no incubation time for ideas, and incubation time is very important. When you try an idea, you look at it and think, Hmm, let’s put it away for a week and think about it later. But that’s never possible when you have only one team working on all the collections.”

On inspiration:

“I just did a show yesterday. Just now, while waiting in the car, I sent four or five ideas to myself by text message, so I don’t forget them. They are always coming […] I was just thinking about this kind of very masculine tailoring you see in the navy. It can be stupid things, like a certain button. But I’ve been doing this my whole life. The problem is when you have only one design team and six collections, there is no more thinking time. And I don’t want to do collections where I’m not thinking.”

On his schedule:

“I have a schedule every day that begins at 10 in the morning and runs through the day, and every, every minute is filled. From 10.10am to 10.30am, it’s shoes, let’s say. From 10.30 to 11.15, it’s jewellery. Everything is timed—the whole week. If there’s a delay in a meeting, the whole day is fucked up.”

On fashion:

“Fashion became pop. I can’t make up my mind if that’s a good or a bad thing. The only thing I know is that it used to be elitist. And I don’t know if one should be ashamed or not to admit that maybe it was nicer when it was more elitist, not for everybody. Now high fashion is for everybody.”

On accessibility:

“Everything is so easily accessible, and because of that you don’t make a lot of effort anymore. When we were young, you had to make up your mind to investigate something—because it took time. You really had to search and dig deep. Now if something interests you, one second later, you can have it. And also one second later you also drop it.”

On personal versus professional life:

“There’s never enough time. You get a tension. I know how to pull out from this in my personal life. We go and look at nature for three hours. It’s heaven. We go to a bakery and buy a bag of stuff and lie in the grass. Sublime. But how to do that in the context of your professional life? You buy a house and you start doing pottery or something?”

The complete text of Cathy Horyn’s interview with Raf Simons appears in the Autumn/Winter 2015 issue of System Magazine.

Is the Industry Saturated with Too Many Independent Fashion Labels? Chris Gelinas Weighs In

Chris Gelinas with models at the CG AW14 collection presentation, presented by MADE. Photo: Aria Isadora/BFAnyc.com

With Band of Outsiders and Kris Van Assche both shuttering this week, another independent fashion designer, Chris Gelinas of CG, weighs in on the struggles of the industry.

Good night and good luck? New York independent label Band of Outsiders and eponymous collection of Dior Homme designer Kris Van Assche both closed their doors this week. Van Assche announced the shuttering of his brand in a hand written letter to WWD, adding, “Times are tough for individual labels.”

Bruce Weber Book Launch hosted by Andre Balazs and Nan Bush at The Standard Spa, Miami Beach
Kris Van Assche with photographer Bruce Weber. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

2014 CFDA Fashion Awards - Arrivals
Scott Sternberg of Band of Outsiders with model Hanne Gaby Odiele at the 2014 CFDA Awards. Photo: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com

With the punishing fashion schedule now demanded by the industry and consumers, designers are feeling the pressure. For those who can’t hack it (and how many really can?) it often means closing shop.

Business is tough when you’re small. You’d think a CFDA Award or an LVMH Prize nomination would help — but the prize money often hardly covers debt of doing business, not to mention the paying cost of production for work required to enter competitions in the first place. So the struggle is all too real, even for the designers who receive accolades and awards for their work.

Take, for instance, Chris Gelinas, designer of CG, who was once first assistant to Olivier Theyskens at Theory, and has also worked at Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, and Proenza Schouler before creating CG. (Theyskens has been highly vocal about young designers not starting their own labels, telling Dezeen earlier this year that the industry is oversaturated.) Gelinas’s label has been recognized as the 2013 winner of the MADE for Peroni Awards (for his very first collection), a 2014 LVMH Prize Finalist, and now USA Nominee for the 2015/16 International Woolmark Prize. It’s impressive, and you’d expect business to be booming. But what do the awards really mean when building a viable brand? Gelinas told us exclusively,

“I think it is harder and harder to compete as an emerging, independent designer in New York. This isn’t to say the hurdles are a bad thing; I think it is good to struggle because for a time it helped eliminate the more superfluous noise and allow those collections made with a lot of passion and determination to gain some spotlight.  Money talks, that’s not new, but these days it screams, and passion, emotion, and creativity aren’t enough to survive. Midtown factories are being converted into hotels and tech companies with deep pockets are happy to pay huge rents creating bigger hurdles just to operate, and putting more pressure on sales.

I personally think the whole conventional wholesale model is designed to make it nearly impossible to get established if you are not incredibly well funded. Deep discounts, charge backs, boring assortments that strip away the message and essence of a collection, compounded with the pressure to deliver more and more; it all robs the design process of enough time to properly craft and create.

The industry has fostered a calendar that relegates our prized ideas to the sales rack in a matter of a couple months, sometimes less. We have trained consumers to want store merchandise refreshed as quickly as their Instagram feed and emerging brands are expected to enable this type of consumption by offering more and more. I have been building my collections slowly with focus on fit and quality, and while those aren’t the glossiest elements or the most buzz worthy, I feel like I am hedging my risk by dedicating my energy to my clients directly. Loyalty is more fleeting these days in an industry obsessed with change and newness, but I have noticed that if you can engage your customer and give her pieces that make her not just look amazing, but feel amazing, she will always be back, and usually with friends.”

Gelinas’s “slow fashion” and personal approach to creating both clothes and a customer is refreshing in a world of Zara, with as he says, “merchandise refreshed as quickly as [a consumer’s] Instagram feed.” We’re watching CG closely, hoping his approach catches fire.

CG AW14 Presented by MADEFW
Chris Gelinas with BlackBook Style Editor Alyssa Shapiro. Photo: Aria Isadora/BFAnyc.com

Fashion News To Kick Off Your Weekend

Whiling away the minutes, waiting for the work week to end? Brush up on the latest happenings in fashion and beauty for distraction.


Raf Simons showed one of our favorite looks from the spring shows alltogether in Paris on Friday for Christian Dior – including printing the word "hyperrealness" on a dress or two.

The newest artist collaboration to join forces with the beauty prowess of Nars is photographer Guy Bourdin, whose work inspired about a bajillion colors for the cosmetics line.

Business of Fashion launched a power list, in case you needed to know who’s in charge.

Beauty (i.e. hair and skin) in its natural stage is all the rage per the recent fashion weeks. Rick Owens took it and ran.

Vancouver’s Inventory to Set Up Shop In NYC

To dwell on the doom and gloom hovering over the print industry is to beat a dead horse, but there are a few astonishing success stories to emerge from the fracas. Take, for instance, Monocle and 032c, whose triumphs have been well-documented. And now there’s another new rag defying expectations: Inventory. Born out of the Vancouver-based virtual store of the same name (not to be confused with the shop on Lafayette in Soho), the magazine’s recently-released second issue “saw its print run increased by sixty percent to 8,000 copies,” says Business of Fashion. While 75 retailers currently offer the minimalist non-glossy, “many more requests to stock Inventory are coming from other stores around the world.”

The magazine was founded by Ryan Willms, who also developed Inventory‘s men’s store, recently expanding it beyond e-commerce to include a studio/shop in Vancouver. “The magazine and store are a kind-of editorial and retail mirror image, making no bones about their commercial intentions,” BoF says. “It seems completely natural that Inventory would sell the products it editorialises. This is in sharp contrast to many mainstream magazines who are required to feature the products of advertisers, but don’t own up to it.” The story will be giving New Yorkers a taste of what’s happening up north come October when they set up temporary shop within Partners & Spade’s downtown space. BoF says of the occasion, “The pop-up store will feature product collaborations with Duluth Pack and Scottish knitter Inverallan and coincide with the launch of the 3rd issue of the magazine.”

Jefferson Hack On The Future Of Magazines

Business of Fashion hosted Dazed & Confused and Another Magazine’s co-founder Jefferson Hack in a live streamed conversation about the future of magazines this afternoon. Subjects like the iPad and Dazed‘s plan to employ satellite blogs proved the most interesting takeaways from the dialogue. Throughout the conversation, Hack remained optimistic about the evolution of both the print and digital industries, offering up the opinion that it’s all one big experiment. “We are talking to a lot of individuals in different, secondary or satellite cities,” says Hack of Dazed Digital’s new endeavor. “So, not NYC, London or Milan, but cities like Reykjavik, Moscow and Sau Paulo around the world where there is real energy… Mumbai for instance.” Essentially Dazed will be hosting blogs and content on a sister site to Dazed Digital that will feature contributions from these varying pockets from around the world. “We’re giving them our architecture so that kids in those cities can broadcast what they do to a global audience; and we’ll give them complete editorial freedom.”

“If they end up setting up their own websites or magazines after that would give me a great sense of satisfaction,” Hack adds. As for Hack’s opinion of the iPad: “images look wonderful on it; it’s a good way to read.” But, don’t expect Hack to hail the death of print in light of the iPad’s introduction anytime soon. “For me, the web is about the moment and the magazine is much more about what I feel is the collective memory. The magazine becomes a souvenir of what’s happening in the moment. The collective memory is what you keep. Magazines won’t disappear, they’ll almost become more important in some ways.” So, how will magazines evolve and take new shape in upcoming years? Hack says it’s all about the “specialization” of publications (“more niche magazines about niche areas of culture”), “more independent press” (a sub-tier of publications that Hack says is “growing” if not “booming”), and the mook (“a hybrid of a magazine and a book where stories can be told in depth with beautiful photography”). So, maybe there’s hope yet…